Kratom is a herbal supplement made from the leaves of a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa). It is grown and cultivated everywhere South East Asia.
Kratom contains powerful alkaloids that have stimulating, pain relieving, and mood-changing effects on the brain. It has also been used by some to help relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
In recent years, kratom use has increased in the United States. Long-term use can lead to addiction, and withdrawing from kratom is not always easy. This is where you’ll find everything you need to know about withdrawal symptoms, your schedule, and how to get help.
While kratom use dates back hundreds of years in Asia, it is a relative newcomer to the western world. At this point in time, doctors and scientists are still learning the positive and negative effects on the human body.
Commonly cited positive effects include pain relief, relaxation, improved mood, and increased energy. However, common negative effects are tolerance, dependency, and withdrawal.
The results of a 2016 online survey found that kratom users in the US are typically middle-aged, middle-income people living with pain...
Most of the 8,000+ respondents said they used kratom to treat pain or improve their mood. A smaller but significant number said they use it to stop opioids or to treat opioid withdrawal..Whatever your reason for turning to kratom, know that it is not the magical solution some people claim.
According to FDA research, kratom is an agonist that binds to the mu-opioid receptors..This is the same part of the brain that is activated when you take opioids such as prescription pain relievers or heroin. This means that kratom is essentially a natural opioid. As with all opioids, there is a risk of tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.
Kratom withdrawal is similar to opioid withdrawal, but is typically shorter and less intense.
Reports show that the withdrawal experience is different for everyone, and many people have no symptoms at all..Survey data found that only about 9% of respondents reported withdrawal symptoms.
Most of these people described their symptoms as level two on a scale of one to five, with one being the most severe and five being the mildest. Common symptoms include fatigue, cravings, tremors, and muscle pain.
Signs and symptoms
Using advanced computer models, the FDA concluded that kratom contains opioid compounds. Obviously, opioid withdrawal is notoriously difficult. Withdrawal from kratom appears to be less severe, shorter, and less frequent.
While pretty much anyone who has been using traditional opioids for an extended period of time will experience withdrawal when they stop their dose, a much smaller proportion of kratom users seem to experience withdrawal symptoms. Research suggests that people who take large doses of kratom several times a day are more likely to have moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms than moderate users...
A study of heavy users in Malaysia who identified themselves as “addicted” to kratom found that 65% had mild withdrawal symptoms and 35% had moderate to severe symptoms. This is significantly higher than the 9% of respondents in the US who reported withdrawal symptoms...
This may have something to do with differences in usage patterns or daily doses. Commonly cited kratom withdrawal symptoms are:..
- Hot flashes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Restless legs
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
According to surveys in the US and Malaysia, symptoms of kratom withdrawal usually appear within 12 to 48 hours of your last dose.and usually go away within 3 days.
Anecdotal reports suggest that some heavy kratom users have what is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS happens to some people after they are withdrawn from a variety of substances.
People tend to experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia that come and go in waves. It may take a few weeks or months before you feel at home again.
Coping & Relief
Kratom withdrawal can be difficult for some people. If you want to quit kratom, you have two options. One is to finish cold turkey. The other is to slowly decrease the dose.
Rejuvenation means taking increasingly smaller and less frequent doses over several weeks. Some people prefer a gentle tapering strategy, while others want to end the retreat as soon as possible. Whatever you choose, there are ways to make the withdrawal more tolerable. Here are some tips to help ease the pain of kratom withdrawal:
- Talk to your doctor. Explain the situation to your doctor and tell them that you are expecting symptoms similar to those of opioid withdrawal. Your doctor can prescribe detox medication that can help relieve problems such as anxiety and nausea.
- Try over-the-counter medications. There are several over-the-counter medications that can help manage the symptoms of kratom withdrawal. Examples are antidiarrheal drugs, sleeping pills, and pain relievers.
- take a shower. Withdrawing from kratom makes some people feel depressed and exhausted. Taking a shower can help improve your mood, increase your energy levels, and soothe your sore muscles.
- To go for a walk. Many people have found that exercise, even a short walk outdoors, can relieve some of the discomfort. It’s a great way to distract yourself from cravings and relieve excessive tension.
- Stay busy. It might be tempting to take a few days off and dodge your friends, but staying busy can be exactly what you need to get through the worst.
- Think about why you quit. It can be helpful to write down the main reasons why you no longer want to use kratom. Have this list handy and refer to it when you experience food cravings.
Kratom withdrawal is not dangerous. For the most part, it’s mild, like a bad cold. Unless you have special medical needs, it should be fine to retire to your home.
If you are pregnant, speak to your gynecologist about your kratom use as soon as possible. There is a case study in the medical literature of a child born with kratom withdrawal.
If you are struggling with drug use, speak to a doctor before quitting kratom. If you’ve used kratom to get rid of opioids, you are at risk of relapse. Due to changing tolerance levels, opioid relapses can be very dangerous.
Taking kratom instead of opioids can be a kind of harm reduction strategy. While scientists still have a lot to learn about kratom, it may be safer than prescription and illegal opioids.
When people overdose on opioids, it is because the drug causes them to stop breathing. Kratom doesn’t seem to affect the airways, even in large doses.
This means that kratom alone is unlikely to cause a fatal overdose. As with any opiate problem, ask your doctor for a prescription for Narcan, the drug used to reverse opioid overdose, before quitting kratom.
If you are using kratom to self-medicate a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, you should make an appointment with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Perhaps a combination of therapy and prescription medications will help you manage your symptoms much better than kratom ever did.
When you are going through a kratom withdrawal or planning to quit, reaching out to other people who have been where you are can be helpful. There are several active online discussion forums on Reddit that you may find helpful, including r / kratom with over 61,000 members and r / quittingkratom with around 7,000 members.
Both are filled with helpful information. Some users post updates daily about their quest to quit kratom. Keep in mind that this population is not indicative of the general public – people are unlikely to report that they are not experiencing addiction or withdrawal symptoms. In other words, people with dramatic or traumatic stories are disproportionately represented.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.
A word from Verywell
Most people start using kratom with good intentions. You want a safe and natural way to manage pain and anxiety. And it can work for a while. But when kratom use takes over your life, you know it’s time to stop. Quitting it might be a little harder than you thought, but it probably won’t be that bad. If you have any problems, please contact us.